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JCP Shii on Japan's prewar history of territorial expansionism

Japanese Communist Party Chair Shii Kazuo on an Asahi Newstar Communication Satellite TV program aired on August 22 commented on Prime Minister Koizumi Jun'ichiro's visit to Yasukuni Shrine and the view of history that lies behind this problem. In answer to an interviewer's questions Shii stated as follows:

Prime minister's Yasukuni Shrine visit:
Ruling party's responsibility is questioned

Q: Prime Minister Koizumi Jun'ichiro on August 15 made his sixth Yasukuni Shrine visit. What do you think is the main issue?

Shii: Prime Minister Koizumi's Yasukuni visit at this time showed that he has no regret at all about dragging Japan's diplomacy into a dead end by his actions. His term of office being close to an end, he showed his outrageously irresponsible "after me the deluge" attitude.

The core of the matter is what Yasukuni Shrine stands for. Koizumi stated, "My Yasukuni Shrine visit is just dedicated to paying tribute to the war dead." However, Yasukuni Shrine is a facility not for paying tribute to the war dead but for praising those who died "honorably" in wars for the sake of the Emperor. Paying tribute is different from glorifying.

Yasukuni Shrine holds a peculiar historical view that Japan's past wars were "just" war waged for "liberating Asia" from the Western powers and "in self-defense," completely distorting history. A prime minister's visit, therefore, amounts to a Japanese government endorsement of the shrine's position. In criticizing the prime minister's visit to the shrine, we have emphasized that this is the crux of the problem.

Koizumi, however, visited Yasukuni on August 15, the day marking Japan's surrender. The ruling Liberal Democratic Party is responsible for the problem. Nobody in the LDP could stop the prime minister's reckless act. Nobody even made a protest. All three LDP presidential election candidates failed to directly criticize him. The LDP's qualification as a ruling party is questioned.

Prewar history: When did Japan begin to take a wrong path?

Q: The prime minister's Yasukuni visit has provoked considerable discussion on the historical questions that lie behind it. This strongly calls into question the broad view on prewar history. At what point do you think Japan began to take a wrong path?

Shii: In a period immediately before the 1868 Meiji Restoration, Japan opened the country when "unequal treaties" by world powers were imposed. Japan then began to pursue the same policy of imposing "unequal treaties" on weaker countries in Asia.

Japan chose Korea as the first target. In 1876 Japan forced Korea to open the country by concluding the "Japan-Korea Amity Treaty." This treaty was worse than the "unequal treaties" Japan had concluded with the world powers.

The Sino-Japanese War (1894-1895) and the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905) marked the turning point in the flagrant escalation of expansionism into imperialism and territorial expansionism. Some people put forward a historical view to glorify the wars by saying, "Up to the Sino-Japanese War and the Russo-Japanese War, Japan had taken a correct path aiming at its modernization." But the reality showed that these two wars were waged due to naked territorial expansionism, making such an argument entirely irrelevant.

As a result of the Sino-Japanese War, two important developments took place. One is the colonization of Taiwan and the Liaodong Peninsula. These were Japan's first full-scale territorial expansion. The Liaodong Peninsula was later returned to China as a result of the Triple (France, Germany, and Russia) Intervention.

The other was the assassination of Queen Min of Korea by order of the Japanese envoy. Japan escalated its intervention into Korea in such lawless way.

The Russo-Japanese War was aimed at seizing Korea. The country was renamed the Great Korean Empire in 1887.

After the Russo-Japanese War, threatening Korea with force, Japan in November 1905 imposed on it the second Korean-Japanese Convention by which Japan established its Resident-General of Korea, robbing Korea of its diplomatic rights and making it a dependency. This led to the annexation of Korea and blatant colonial rule in 1910.

Japanese imperialism and territorial expansionism began with the colonization of Taiwan and Korea. This was the turning point to take the wrong path. I think we should never forget this course of events.

From invasion of China to the Pacific War

Q: What were the milestones in subsequent developments?

Shii: The next target of this policy of territorial expansion was China. The "21 Demands" made by Japan to China in 1915 was a flagrant manifestation of Japan's aggressive ambition. This gave rise to severe criticism among Chinese people. But Japan did not abandon its ambition for aggression against China. It provoked the so-called Manchurian Incident in 1931, marking the start of a war of aggression in Northeast China. It occupied the whole of Manchuria and set up the puppet state of Manchukuo.

In 1937, Japan fabricated the Luguo Qiao (Lukow-kiao) Incident, which marked the start of a full-scale war of aggression against China. Japanese invasion forces advanced from Shanghai to Nanjing and committed the crime known as the Nanjing Massacre.

This is how Japan carried out territorial expansion first in Taiwan and Korea and escalated it into a war of aggression against Northeast China and the whole of China. But the war of aggression against China came under severe criticism from the international community, and Japan suffered economic sanctions. Despite this, Japan waged the Pacific War from 1941 through 1945 for the purpose of grabbing oil and other natural resources by force.

Everyone knows that this war of aggression ended in a colossal failure, leaving the Japanese people and other Asian peoples with a tragic catastrophe. However, I think it is necessary for the Japanese people to remember this war within the context of such historical events caused by imperialism and territorial expansionism.

Face up to the past errors to earn the trust of Asian countries

Q: After the war, history classes in Japan's junior high schools and high schools have taught little about the modern history. Do you think that that part of history needs to be taught more diligently?

Shii: Yes, I do. Today, efforts to establish an Asian community of nations for peace are increasing. The East Asia Summit in December 2005 confirmed that participating countries will work toward that goal. This shows that the establishment of such a community is a real task.

I believe that sharing a common understanding of basic historical questions is an indispensable prerequisite for the participating countries in this project to achieve a peaceful community of nations. In view of our future, I think that our task is to surely hand down the historical facts to young people.

Q: Some label such an argument as a masochistic view of history.

Shii: How did Japan head down the wrong path of territorial expansionism? For victim nations, it was the history of losing their home countries in humiliation and suffering ravages. It is not masochistic to recognize this fact. If Japan is courageous enough to squarely face the past history and acknowledge its wrongdoing, it can gain the trust of other Asian nations, and Japanese people can face the future with confidence. On the contrary, turning a blind eye to past wrongdoings lends to committing the same errors again.

Potsdam Declaration, Japan's Constitution, and the UN Charter:
the foundation of the post-war world

Q: What is your view on post-war Japanese politics?

Shii: Japan's post-war politics began with the acceptance of the Potsdam Declaration, which clearly states that the war was a war for "world conquest," meaning a war of aggression, and clearly condemned this war. The declaration also showed the direction for democratizing Japan and building a peaceful nation. We should firmly recognize this as the starting point of Japan's post-war politics.

Within this framework, the Constitution of Japan was established and the principle of lasting peace was enshrined in Article 9. Thus, Article 9 is our pledge to the world never to commit the same errors based on a deep remorse over the past war of aggression. The Japanese people are required to recognize this.

The UN Charter established in 1945 is extremely important as the basis of the international framework. Japan was allowed to join the United Nations in the 1950s. The UN Charter views that Japan, Germany, and Italy waged wars of aggression. Based on this reflection and aiming at the prevention of a recurrence of such wars, the Charter turned the ideal of lasting peace into a set of international rules such as the prohibition of the use or threat of force and the peaceful resolution of disputes.

The Potsdam Declaration, the UN Charter, and the Japanese Constitution constitute the foundation of post-war Japan. The need now is for us to stand firm against any adverse move that runs counter to this framework.
- Akahata, August 24, 2006

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